Saudi is a pioneer of sorts when it comes to space in the region.
Back in June 1985, Sultan bin Salman al-Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, was part of the crew on a Space Shuttle Discovery flight, becoming the first Arab, first Muslim and the first member of a royal family to go into outer space.
But following Saudi efforts have since been geared, more than anything else, towards satellite projects.
In fact, Saudi engineers and researchers have completed work on a payload for a Chinese space vehicle that will explore the moon, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The joint exploration is in line with a memorandum of understanding concluded between China and Saudi Arabia during King Salman’s visit to Beijing in mid-March 2017, the SPA said, quoting Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, president of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
The joint venture intends to study and explore the moon, “particularly the invisible side of it to provide scientific data for researchers and specialist in space research and science.”
As agreed upon by the KACST and the Chinese Space Agency, the Saudi side will build a payload for a space sensory system for use in filming and take photos of the moon.
“The payload was readied in a record time of no more than 12 months, during which the Saudi research team faced numerous challenges, most prominent of which was the importance of manufacturing a small payload with a high capacity of less than 10.5 cubic-cm and a weight of no more than 630 grams on the Chinese satellite,” the KACST head said.
The payload consists of photographic and data processing units, among others, that is not only light in weight but also able to endure the space environment.
The equipment can take photos from different angles and altitudes that vary according to the lunar orbit changes, Prince Turki was quoted by the SPA as saying.
“Saudi Arabia’s taking part in this great event would boost, no doubt, its efforts to develop its satellite technologies and use it in several fields of reconnaissance and distance censoring as well as space telecommunications, in addition to proceeding with the march of catching the world race in this field,” he said.
What about the UAE?
UAE’s space goals are bolder
Dubai emphasized its interest in space, last year, announcing that it will host the International Astronautical Congress in 2020.
The UAE isn’t aiming for the Moon, it is going to Mars.
In preparation for a Mars mission, the country has funded Mars Science City, a $136m endeavor that will replicate human colonization of the planet, according to Business Insider.